“The welcome sign is on for lobbyists in this administration,” says lobbying recruiter Ivan Adler for CQ Magazine.
By Kate Ackley, CQ Roll Call | March 20, 2017
President Donald Trump sneered at K Street on the campaign trail, but he’s bringing lobbyists back on the executive branch payroll.
His pledge to “drain the swamp” seems to have fallen out of favor in lieu of snapping up politically savvy operators who understand complicated policy issues as well as the intricacies of governing, legislating and making deals.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing for a president with no experience in electoral politics — unless you count donating campaign cash.
“The welcome sign is on for lobbyists in this administration, and that’s a good idea because you’re taking advantage of a lot of subject matter expertise in important policy areas,” says Ivan Adler, a lobbyist headhunter with the McCormick Group.
One of Barack Obama’s first official acts as president was to usher in a wave of ethics rules governing his appointees. His administration banned people who had been registered federal lobbyists in the past two years, unless they were granted a waiver.
It was part of his plan, Obama said in 2009, to close the revolving door between government and the private sector.
That didn’t work.
The door still revolved. Some officials — such as Steve Ricchetti, chief of staff to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — quietly deregistered their clients but stayed in their lobbying firms for the requisite 24 months before joining the administration. Others cleansed themselves of their lobbyist taint by decamping for Capitol Hill for a few years, and then entered the Obama administration.
When Obama’s aides departed for the private sector, many who joined the influence business did so outside the scope of public disclosure.
Most lobbyists, though, stayed out of the executive branch. And while many progressive, good-government activists praised Obama’s groundbreaking policy toward lobbyists, it limited his potential hires from unions and liberal groups as well as from K Street.
The Trump team kept in place similar language in a Jan. 28 ethics pledge, which prohibits anyone who has been a lobbyist in the past two years from participating in any matter involving former clients or on which they lobbied. But that hasn’t stopped the Trump administration from bringing on recent lobbyists such as Michael Catanzaro, special assistant to the president for domestic energy and environmental policy, whose clients at the CGCN Group included Noble Energy and MasterCard Worldwide.
Or Andrew Olmem, a special assistant to the president for financial policy, whose former clients at Venable included American Express and MetLife.
Or Shahira Knight, a former Ways and Means staffer and ex-lobbyist for Fidelity Investments, who is now special assistant to the president for tax and retirement policy.
Or Makan Delrahim, a deputy White House counsel, who recently lobbied for Flexjet and Pfizer at Brownstein Hyatt.
No ethics waivers are posted on the White House website. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters did not respond to questions about the specifics of how the ethics pledge applies to these and other recent ex-lobbyists who join the administration […]
Ivan Adler previously spoke to The Hill predicting that the administration’s lobbying ban would not deter lobbyists from joining Capitol Hill.
To contact Ivan, go to | Ivan Adler
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